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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Pros and cons of suburban malls

With so much shopping mall space already taken up in the Klang Valley, developers are turning toward building suburban malls in residential areas.

One such example is the new 470,000 sq ft SSTwo Mall along Jalan SS2/75, set to open in the fourth quarter of this year.

The imminent opening of the new RM180mil mall is causing some uncertainty among residents in that area.

Says a resident: “The development of this mall will cause traffic jams along the main roads. Also, parents picking up children studying in Sekolah Kebangsaan Taman Sea will add to the traffic. Security may become an issue if cars resort to parking in our housing area.”

She says the close proximity of Tropicana City Mall makes it difficult to understand the objective behind the development of SSTwo Mall.

Indeed, there are questions that should be asked about this new mall. For instance, Tropicana City Mall is located a stone’s throw away – why build another mall so close to it?

Both malls appear to be targeting a similar income group (the middle to upper household income bracket) and will attract customers from the same area, so surely SSTwo Mall will suffer from a lack of tenants or shoppers?

Henry Butcher Retail managing director Tan Hai Hsin rejects this notion. “At the moment, there is no large shopping centre in Petaling Jaya that offers one-stop retail facilities. SSTwo Mall could replace Jaya Shopping Complex as the retail icon of PJ,” says Tan.

What about the increasing number of shopping centres in the Klang Valley?

“Market saturation is irrelevant to this shopping complex. The challenges that SSTwo Mall faces are more localised, such as its ability to offer products and services different or better than its competitors, while staying relevant with its target customers,” he says.

This is also a view shared by Asian Retail Mall Fund II (ARMF II), the developer of SSTwo Mall. ARMF II is managed by Pramerica Real Estate Investors in Singapore.

“Malls are built to cater to segments of the population with varying needs and demands. For SSTwo Mall, we aim to become a community-centric establishment for the SS2 community, providing the residents with a comfortable venue to dine or shop with their families,” says a spokesman from ARMF II.

He says that the mall was designed with the surrounding residents and families in mind.

The residents living in the apartments directly along Jalan SS2/75 are the ones who will benefit the most from the new mall.

There are easily over 2,000 units of apartments along the same road and many of the residents are optimistic about the new mall.

“The opening of SSTwo Mall will be good for the community. It will be convenient for me to dine and buy groceries from the mall, especially if there is a new hypermarket. I will not have to go very far to get the things I need,” a resident from Five Stones tells StarBizWeek.

She says she understands the concerns of residents living in the houses nearby, and urges them to lodge their complaints over difficulties indirectly caused by the mall through the local council – a view shared by the developer.

The story of a mall in an area with different resident views is not a new one.

Malaysian Association for Shopping and Highrise Complex Management member Richard Chan tells of how the development of Atria Shopping Centre in Damansara Jaya had to contend with complaints from residents in 1990.

“Before Paramount Corp Bhd took over what was then known as DJ Centre, the shopping mall was in a mess. The mall was not fully occupied, it was facing competition from neighbouring retail outlets and worst of all, the mall did not meet the needs and wants of the residents, who were worried about the impact of the mall on the community,” says Chan.

“When we took over, we formed a resident association to allow residents to voice their complaints as well as promote discussion. It turned out that residents were worried about the impact of the shopping centre on the location of the night market or pasar malam. So we helped resolve their concern, while convincing the neighbouring shops that we were not a threat,” says Chan.

Paramount Corp’s assurance to the residents that the area would benefit from Atria Shopping Centre won them over, something the developers of SSTwo Mall will do well to follow. With a net lettable area almost 100,000 sq ft larger than Tropicana City Mall, and almost 2½ times larger than Centrepoint, it is fair to say that SSTwo Mall will definitely have an impact on the area immediately around it.

Whether the benefits of this new mall will outweigh its cost is yet to be seen. But the obvious conclusion is that there is a price to pay for development.

By The Star

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